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Member Spotlight Series: Francesca Heller

Membership Chairperson Katy Clements continues to delight us with another Member Spotlight interview; this month, she interviews long-time New Yorker Francesca Heller. Francesca joined the NYGH in 2021 but has been weaving for decades, and among the crafts she does and has done are weaving, knitting, sewing, crochet, macramé, paper-making, and embroidery.

Francesca was a child of ten when a family friend stored a loom in her family's basement. "I used to sit on the stairs and just look at it in absolute awe, like what is this thing and how does it work!? But I didn't start weaving for a few decades later. I guess it wasn't the right time." Many of us have similar childhood memories, such as staring at an old spinning wheel or a 1970's knitting machine! Francesca grew up and obtained a masters degree in early childhood education and enjoyed a forty year career in that profession.

Having learned such a wide variety of crafts and fiber arts, Francesca offers this excellent advice: "Embrace the unexpected, and give up always being in control. There are no mistakes, only learning opportunities." Indeed, she has woven bags with "plarn" weft (yarn made from cutting plastic bags into strip)s. "It was time-consuming, but I got into a rhythm with it," says Francesca. "And I often think, well, so what if it's taking up time, when I finish this project, I'm only going to need another one, so why be in a hurry?" Again, many of us are nodding firmly in agreement!

This interview really highlights the fact that caring, kindness, generosity, and the joy of collaboration go hand-in-hand with craft and fiberarts work, especially when Francesca talks about how she made a blanket for a once-in-a-lifetime friend who was terminally ill: "I wanted to make her something that she could wrap herself in and feel all the warmth of sunshine and the goodness of fresh air and healthiness. And I really feel as if there was some kind of spirit somewhere that helped me make this because I'm astonished that I actually made it."

Francesca also points out one of the key benefits of being a guild member: "Feedback... that's one of the things I value about being in a guild. It really helps a lot to have feedback... To put it out there in the wider realm is important." She mentions that positive comments are particularly helpful, saying, "I think I was not valuing that [being a practical weaver] adequately. I was feeling intimidated by a lot of the work at the weavers guild. I guess I don't need to do that anymore."

And like all of us, Francesca appreciates that the NYGH continues to use Zoom by offering hybrid meetings. "I'm absolutely loving I can be a part of it," she says. This has been, and continues to be, a learning curve for our guild so we are pleased when anyone shares their appreciation or offers suggestions to improve our meetings. And we are grateful to all our new members, like Francesca, who have chosen to join the NYGH. We now have members from around the globe as we continue to offer speakers from all over the world!

Some of the people/places/things Francesca mentions in the interview:

Teacher: Peggy Osterkamp

Schools: the Penland School of Crafts for weaving/clothing design; Korean Paper Making at the 92nd Street Y; and the Omega Institute for a Navajo Rug weaving course.

Online Yarn Shops: Halcyon Yarn and Gist Yarn

Watch the interview on our YouTube channel:


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